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Traveling, living, loving, exploring and trying to make some semblance of sense out of this crazy world.  


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ghosts of Tomorrow

I didn't support Hillary.

To be honest, I thought comedian Ron White would have made the best possible President out of all the early contenders.

So if I find flaws with our new President, it cannot be put down to making my failed candidate look better.

I see the many mental and moral faults of Donald Trump, which are now an undeniable part of the public record, as a direct threat to the safety and security, indeed to the very possibility of a future of any kind, for my grandchildren, and that concerns me fasr more than the fate of my nation, which will survive and continue, although perhaps in much altered form and direction.

One reason I feel that way is that my grandchildren are both female, and I feel that the clock is about to be rolled back to the 60s for the women of this country, to the 50s if you are a woman of color or a person who does not practice Christianity. Removing the supply of contraceptives will not reduce the number of abortions; stop asking your pastor and start asking your kids, they're taking life sciences, maybe they can explain it to you both.

If you don't want to be compared to historical crazies, don't suggest things like having all the people of one particular religion, millions of whom have lived in peace with us as citizens and visitors for decades, to wear a special emblem or register like sex offenders.

Christians have killed or been responsible for the deaths of more people than any religion on earth. Forcing followers of genocidal religions to wear a special emblem is a slippery slope, and there are plenty of scarlet letters to go around.

Another reason I have little or no use for President-elect Trump is that my family has had a number of members who served in the Armed Forces and fought for this country, and I have, over the years, had a large contingent of friends and acquaintances who did the same.

In my opinion, a Commander-in-Chief who does not have any interest in daily intelligence breifings (which allows commanders to make intelligent decisions and save the lives of their soldiers), who also equates his sexual misadventures to service during wartime is a Commander-in-Chief with no respect for the proud history ofn the Armed Forces, no respect for the soldiers under his command, and no qualifications beyond a heartbeat and the vote of the Electoral College.

I am also an outdoorsman, and the appointment of people who favor selling off our public lands, followed by passage of a bill making it easier to write and pass legislation to do so, saddens someone who has spent decades working to preserve our heritage of public lands through public service.

Few of those most beautiful places that we as a nation hold so dear are worth more as public attractions than they would be as developed real estate, mines, fracking sites, or private hunting or conservation preserves that are nothing more than private parks. This flies in the face of the efforts of past Presidents like Roosevelt and Truman, and negates so many of the promises made to Native peoples and to our children, whose legacy we are preparing to auction off to the highest bidder.

I see nothing but a cabal of oligarchs rising from this new administration, and there is nothing good in that for the American people.

I hope I am wrong, that I am incredibly far off the mark, but I have a knack for predicting bad weather and other calamities, so it is a hope tempered with a strong dose of reality.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Election 2016, or, Alien vs Predator- No Matter Who Wins, We Lose

Last word on this-

If you vote in this election, you lose.

If you do not vote in this election, you lose.

If you vote for Hillary, you are saying you support lobbyists and Wall Street owning our government, that you support lifetime bureaucratic-political careers and the sale of America's resources and political future to China and other peace-loving pro-democracy nations. 

You're saying that you shouldn't divorce your cheating husband if it advances your political career, and should in fact join him in selling out our country, while defending rapists and dehumanizing their victims.

You are admitting that you are gullible enough to think that anyone who is giving inspirational presentations to Wall Street and big corporations for millions of dollars a pop has any concept of how you live or the struggles you go through to pay your bills and feed yourself, never mind those you love.

You're telling our soldiers that it is okay for their leaders to be clueless and apathetic while our overseas personnel die at the hands of terrorists, when they could be saved by a single phone call, and that it is okay to have trained and supplied those terrorists for decades.

You're saying pantsuits are actually fashion.

If, on the other hand, you vote for Donald Trump, you're saying it is acceptable to be profane, vulgar, disrespectful and downright aggressive to women, which is funny, when you think of just how many of Trump's supporters were all about the transgender bathroom law.

Now you have a man who has assaulted women sexually (as in: against their wishes and/or without their consent), and you want to put him in the White House? 

(By the way, if you have never been in a locker room, that is not 'locker room talk'. That was nasty, degrading ignorance put into words. Talking like that in most locker rooms will earn you a punch in the mouth.)

You're telling the world that you are fine with a man who is a fan of the dictator who rules Russia with a bloody iron fist, a man that, like Putin, is prepared to commit war crimes or order our military to do so.

(At which point Don will retire to a comfy room in Gitmo, or his supporters will learn a bitter lesson about the true depths of our military's honor and commitment to preserving the Constitution.)

What would make America great again is a man who would hand out nukes like Christmas candy to some of the most unstable governments in the world, ideologically? 

A man who would suspend our right to free speech if it is aimed at him? 

A man who said that he has nothing to confess to God, and that sleeping around in the 70s was the equivalent of serving in Viet Nam? 

How could you scream about Obama's disrespect of veterans for eight years and swallow that bile with a grin? 

How do you expect fiscal responsibility and progress from a man who cannot keep casinos solvent (casinos; you know, where the house always wins?), even with a strip bar inside?

(A strip bar, also known as a place where men actually pay more not to sleep with women and where money pours like rain from heaven.)

You're also saying that combovers and spray-on tans are cool.

(Yes I did say more about him- he offends me much more deeply, since I am a man and he is a simian approximation.)

I've been to Colorado and seen what it is like there, and this is nothing like that, so I have to ask-

What are you people smoking?

Can you really believe that Susan B. Anthony, Jesus, The Founding Fathers, Lincoln, or anyone with a working set of frontal lobes would want either of these complete failures as humans anywhere near the White House?

Even if you choose to vote for a independent candidate like Gary Johnson, you are voting for someone who will not be allowed to win. The two major parties have already shown themselves capable of as many dirty tricks as could be imagined to battle each other- combined, their attacks would be insurmountable. 

And, of course, if you wisely choose not to vote, your choices will be made by the incredibly divided and partisan masses, swirling around the gene pool on their little rubber horses, just waiting for November and a chance to 'Put A Woman Where She Really Belongs' or 'Make America Great Again', neither of which is going to happen.

As I have said- no winning. 

Not even for me. 

After all, it's not much fun saying "I told you so" from inside the blast radius.

Election 2016: We're screwed.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Reed Creek app is LIVE!

The Reed Creek app is here at last, now live on rakkup.com!

Check out cool navigation features, sweet action shots and updated route info.

And keep an eye on rakkup.com for the upcoming Long Branch and The Guide Wall. app, with over sixty routes, and something for everyone, from 5.6 trad cruises to bolted 5.13+ technical challenges.

Thanks to Tyrel Johnson for all your hard work getting this product out to climbers everywhere.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Letter of The Law

[Cribbed from the internet, original source uncertain. Accuracy undeniable.]

So.... homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstances as preached by many, including a certain Dr Laura from a well known US radio talk show. The following was an open letter to that doctor!

Dear Dr. Laura

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman,

Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,

Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

P.S. (It would be a damn shame if we couldn't own a Canadian.)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Things Change

Life is funny, ya know?

A week ago, my life was fairly normal; laundry, dishes, cleaning up after cats and kids, reading posts on Facebook and the internet, watching the debacle of the election cycle, trying to finish some anchor replacement at the older crags in WV and making plans to hit the road for Colorado the day after tomorrow, to begin another season as staff in Pike National Forest's 11 Mile Canyon.

An hour later, I was in an ambulance with a wife who I did not know would live to see another day, holding her hand as EMTs worked on her, my heart in my throat and all plans for the future annihilated and scattered to the winds.

Late that night, the doctors at RMH told us their diagnosis; not the worst, but not the best, not by a long shot.

Cindy, a fourteen year stroke survivor and Multiple Sclerosis fighter, had suffered a brain aneurysm; a massive swelling in the carotid artery just inside her skull, like a loaded cannon pointed directly at the base of her brain. She was transferred to Richmond's Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center for more tests and scans, her condition analyzed by some of the leading neurosurgeons in the country.

On Saturday, her pain was minimal, her condition stable, and we came back to the Shenandoah Valley.

Eight years ago, I met a funny, beautiful lady with a heart of gold; taught her to climb, shared her battle with Multiple Sclerosis, supported her fight to stop using the medications that were killing her, and listened as she fought with the darkness that had been poured into her soul by demons in human form at such an early age.

In turn, she accepted me for the bipolar, sardonic, irascible, irreverent fool that I am; reached down into my well of isolation and self-pity and drew out the very best of me. If I have failed to live up to that ideal, the fault is mine; Cindy has always believed in me, no matter how badly or how often I have failed.

We have traveled the country from coast to coast, climbed and hiked, laughed and cried at the folly and loss of friends and family, celebrated victories and struggled to find a silver lining surrounding the storm clouds of our occasional defeats. We've learned more about friendship, hardship, love and life in the last few years than either of us suspected could be known in a lifetime.

Today, Cindy and I have a slightly clearer picture of a much different future, and in the light of that knowledge, we are living each day to the fullest, loving and appreciating each other, so thankful for the family and friends who have put aside their own burdens and reached out to support us in our darkest hours of need.

The Road ahead is uncertain; there are trials and storms on our horizons, without a doubt, as there are for every person living in this consensual illusion of reality that we share. But for now, we are holding each other in this safe haven, cherishing each touch, each kiss, each word, and together, we will get through whatever may come.

No matter what may transpire, each of us knows the other will be waiting, there in that forest meadow at the end of the Road; waiting and calling, "Come home".

You and me, kid; forever.

And, for now, that is more than enough.

Monday, October 12, 2015

One More For the Road: Not a Trace

My wife and I have been living and working in Elevenmile Canyon, just off Route 24, acting as campground hosts and front booth staff in the Pike national forest outside Lake George, Colorado.

Every week, all week long, scores of climbers, climbing guides, and their clients pour through the gate, many of their vehicles sporting Access Fund stickers.

Boulder, Colorado, the corporate home of the Access Fund, is two and a half hours away, three at the most.

There is not a single established trail leading to any of the dozen crags inside and surrounding the canyon.

There has not, this year, been an Adopt-A-Crag in Elevenmile, nor is there any sign that there has been one since before the fires of 2012.

My fellow campground hosts and employees had never heard of such a thing, save some efforts by Colorado College to shore up the canyon's two hiking trails, one of which is a prime climbing access highway that sees little or no climber maintenance.

The pretty much unanimous sentiment in the local community and among the service personnel of the several government and private agencies that administer this land is that climbers leave trash and impact while trying to camp without paying, which is when they usually abandon burning fires; either that, or while arguing about leashing their dogs and paying the day use fees 'because we came in at night'.

So keep sending in that $100 every year, although I think that's pretty steep for a bumper sticker and T-shirt, if you've got it, flaunt it.

It's obviously doing a lot of good in the AF's home state; how about yours?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Other roads, other worlds

No rants, no politics, just pictures, videos and stories of friends, climbs, places we've discovered and trails we've walked.

Tales From a Gypsy Campfire

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Happy trails

That's it, campers.

End of the song, last bow, final curtain call.

Two weeks in the desert have driven home some reminders, while others lay patiently waiting along old trails, long forgotten, overgrown by manzanita, shaded by yucca and guarded by groves of cholla and weathered oaks.

There is nothing more to say.

It's been a long and winding road, some of it light, much of it dark, often rocky and uphill, in storms.

I've advocated responsibility and put my own hands and resources to the task of caring for the places I've developed and discovered.

I've tried to pass that vision along, and to advocate for the climbers of the world to do the same; to preserve and protect our heritage of non-commercial independence and day-to-day environmentalism, to accept that for every freedom, we inherit a dozen responsibilities.

I've watched a generation come out of the gyms, with urban sensibilities and a city-dweller's earnest, clueless approach to the forest and the world beyond the magazine articles, with the latest gear in their packs and the media-hyped, corporately-sponsored causes of the day on their lips.

Some have taken up the torch, put their hands to work and their money where their mouths are.

Most have not.

Long past time to admit the truth.

There is no winning this argument; the deck is marked, the dice are loaded, the house is crooked, and the other players are not showing all their cards, while the very best, among whom I cannot be counted, are carrying the fight, albeit against strong odds, to an enemy who cannot be quickly or easily defeated, not without severe and in the end fatal concessions.

Nothing we can say or do or tell ourselves can change this, short of a complete replacement and overhaul of the way business is done, in the United States Congress and the White House.

As well as among climbers and their organizations.

Take a good hard look at how much your advocates and groups, organizations and icons value your input and opinions, how much credit is given to the members and the climbing community, when compared to the constant  linking of every new "campaign" and "educational program" and "pact" to some corporate source or another.

Here's a clue- if you don't know everything they're doing, you don't know everything they're doing.

Get it?

Some of that is probably for everyone's good, and some of that just might run completely counter, whether by design or not, to everything the members pay for and the mission statement they were sold.

Old news, I know; 'though down this road we've been so many times', etc.

There are good people, some truly great people, some of whom used to be friends, many of whom still are, putting up new lines, taking care of trails and anchors, and getting to know all the not-quite-so-lost and no-longer-quite-so-secret places of Smoke Hole and the surrounding crags of West Virginia.

Some of them even give the Access Fund grief, when the Fund deserves it, just for fun, and to make an ornery old man smile.

There are also a contingent of elite professionals who give back very little to the places where they earn a living, unless you count trespass and exponential impact as a contribution.

I have been waiting for the Regional Coordinator to admit  that he doesn't want to do trail work or coordinate anything more complex that the next Chilifest, for years now... and every year, the advocates give him their stamp of approval, with no clue how the locals upon whose land he and his employees have trespassed feel about them or the organization they represent.

This month, I spent two weeks watching the clusterfoxtrot that is and will continue to be the fight for Oak Flat, I saw good people as well as a lot of folks with very private agendas trying to make their way through that maze.

I thank you all and I wish you well. I will continue to support the fight for as long as it lasts.

We hiked old trails, found a lot of new things and re-discovered some others. I spent a lot of time laughing and remembering with my wife, recalling the good points and bad in our journeys, many of both found here in the crags and along the plateau of Gaan Canyon and Oak Flat.

We reaffirmed our faiths, our determined commitment to speak the truth as we see it and live as we must to be free. We started some new ideas and let go of some things.

This is one of the things I am letting go.

I spent a lot of time, over the last three or four months, in thought about my beginnings, about the sport I knew, and I looked back at the slow decline of climbing from a passion and obsession among oddballs and outcasts, a discipline, the most useless of arts, carried on far from the madding crowd, a dream of measuring yourself against something more, now awakened to a live streaming debacle that celebrated every detail of a middle class white American team, both of them basically raised to climb rock, funded by every major manufacturer of gear and shamelessly sold by every form of climbing media, ascending a decades-old aid line while the same climbing press and supposed community, and the world, almost completely ignored the fact that the Federal government is, for the first time in history, giving National Forest Lands, sacred to the San Carlos Apache, to a foreign corporation.  

I'm sorry, but maybe I'm just dense; is there actually something more important in the way of access issues than a corporation, three greasy state reps, and a has-been Presidential wannabe using midnight politics to force this country to trade traditionally-used public lands and allow a form of mining that will, within a few decades, render it forever off-limits to all human life, potentially obliterating historic landmarks, while using more water than nearby towns and poisoning the Queen Creek community, all without benefiting Superior, Arizona, or America in any long-term, proven way?

I have beaten my head against this wall for too long. I said things that have offended major celebrities of the sport, and perhaps I have, from time to time, leaped far beyond the boundaries of good taste.

(Bobbi, I was always a huge fan, really. I was just following John Sherman's lead... seems to be the popular thing to do.)

To me the answer is obvious, and I cannot, I will not accept that there is any other way that the question can or need be phrased.

Do you support and defend the right of Americans to climb on, to keep and enjoy their public lands, or will you dine with the Devil?

Best bring a long-handled spoon.

I'll leave you to it.

Happy trails.